- The Washington Times - Monday, June 13, 2011

President Obama waded into the Rep. Anthony D. Weiner saga for the first time Monday, saying he would resign if he were the embattled New York Democrat.

Meanwhile, a congressional ethics panel reportedly has begun a preliminary inquiry into Mr. Weiner’s sexually charged online relationships with several women.

The president said what Mr. Weiner did was “highly inappropriate” and that the lawmaker had embarrassed himself, his wife and his family, the Associated Press reported.

The president, who made the comments during an interview for NBC’s “Today” show, didn’t explicitly call for Mr. Weiner to resign, but said that when a politician gets to the point where he can’t serve as effectively as needed, “then you should probably step back.”

White House press secretary Jay Carney earlier in the day called the Weiner scandal a “distraction.”

“As Congressman Weiner has said himself, his behavior was inappropriate, his dishonesty was inappropriate,” Mr. Carney said. “We think it’s a distraction from the important business that this president needs to conduct and Congress need to conduct.”

Mr. Carney said he wasn’t aware of any top administration aides who have pressed Mr. Weiner to step down.

The AP has cited unnamed House officials who said the House ethics committee staff has initiated a preliminary inquiry into Mr. Weiner’s actions.

The House officials told the wire service the inquiry is not yet extensive, and that committee leaders have not indicated whether they will order a more intensive staff investigation. The officials requested anonymity because the committee has yet to make a formal statement.

A spokesman for the committee, when contacted by The Washington Times, declined to comment on the AP report.

The 46-year-old Mr. Weiner, who has been married less than a year, has admitted to sending lewd photos and exchanging sexually charged messages on the Internet with about six women, and acknowledged that he initially lied in public to cover his tracks.

Police also have been looking into Mr. Weiner’s reputed contacts with a 17-year-old girl in Delaware, according to news reports.

In a statement issued over the weekend, he said he would seek “professional help” and would ask for a leave of absence.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Virginia Republican, has called on Democratic leaders to remove their colleague from his post on the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee if the disgraced lawmaker doesn’t resign from Congress.

“I called on him to resign [last week], because I think that this kind of behavior is unacceptable, the way that his leaders now have called on him to resign,” Mr. Cantor told reporters at the Capitol on Monday. “I’m hoping that they will begin to move - if he does not resign - towards things like perhaps stripping him of his committees.”

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a high-profile government watchdog group, also joined a growing chorus of those demanding the New York lawmaker quit.

“The use of social media to engage in numerous sexual exchanges and lying about it when caught was bad enough. But inappropriate contact with a teenage girl and sexually explicit photographs sent across the Internet are a new low,” CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan said in a statement released Monday.

“The people of New York’s 9th Congressional District deserve a representative who can focus on their issues, rather than on his own considerable personal problems. Rep. Weiner should resign immediately.”

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